(10/18/23) BATON ROUGE, La. — Growing New Connections, the seventh annual Louisiana Farm to School Conference, gathered hundreds of partners to the Pennington Biomedical Conference Center to share ideas and best practices for bringing healthier, local food options to students throughout the state.
The conference, put on by the LSU AgCenter, took place on Oct. 11, and presented topics such as starting and maintaining school gardens, procurement strategies, crop rotations and the popular Great Louisiana Satsuma Peel. AgCenter Farm to School director Crystal Besse said the program has three main focuses.
“These are procurement, which is bringing local food into the school system, whether it’s as a taste test or serving the foods in the cafeteria. The second is school gardens, growing produce at the schools,” she said. “The third item is education, which can be related to nutrition, health or agriculture, but it can cover a lot of other subjects, including math, science and language arts.”
Besse said the key to success is combining all three of those to see real behavioral change.
The United States Department of Agriculture southwest regional administrator William “Bill” Ludwig was on hand to speak about his group’s No. 1 objective — that no child in America goes hungry. He said the southwest region covers Utah to Louisiana.
“I tell people I represent everyone from the Mormons to the Cajuns,” Ludwig said, which got a laugh from the audience.
The keynote speaker was Christina Melton, executive director of the Knock Knock Children’s Museum. She said she was encouraged by all the opportunities available to educators across the state and spoke to the attendees about the importance of teaching families the significance of consuming healthy foods and safeguarding our crops for future generations.
“For stressed and stretched families, meals are often something we grab while we are on the way to the next thing or between things,” she said. “Not like in the past when food was a way to nourish both bodies and spirits with family.”
Melton went on to say that in a time when processed foods and sugary drinks have become staples, she strongly believes that those in attendance could make a difference in the way children and families think about food and that our communities will be better for it.
Louisiana Farm to School communications director Jacey Wesley was delighted by the attendance of the conference and was grateful for the sponsors and partners who helped to make it happen.
“We are thrilled with the enthusiasm and engagement from our partners and sponsors. Their support of the farm to school movement is helping to strengthen the local economy while educating Louisianians on the importance of eating locally grown, nutritious foods,” Wesley said.
Farmers, volunteers, teachers, nutrition professionals and others looking for additional information can visit www.seedstosuccess.com.
The United States Department of Agriculture southwest regional administrator William “Bill” Ludwig spoke at the LSU AgCenter’s seventh annual Louisiana Farm to School Conference, held Oct. 11 at the Pennington Biomedical Conference Center in Baton Rouge. Ludwig told attendees his team’s No. 1 objective was that no child in America goes hungry. Photo by V. Todd Miller/LSU AgCenter
Attendees of the LSU AgCenter’s seventh annual Louisiana Farm to School Conference sample local satsumas provided by Ben & Ben Becnel Inc. Photo by Jacey Wesley/LSU AgCenter